Health status in Lowland Medieval Scotland: a regional analysis of four skeletal populations
Willows, Marlo A.
This research examines the health of those living within the lowland, east coast region of Scotland from 500-1500 AD utilizing historical, archaeological, and skeletal material. Although the study area was a central part of medieval Scotland, it has not been the focus of any larger scale research into health, including any previous statistical analyses. This study presents the osteological analysis of skeletal remains of four medieval populations (385 individuals) from eastern, lowland Scotland: Ballumbie (N=197 individuals), Isle of May (N=58), St Andrews Library (N=72), and Whitefriars (N=58). Additionally, this research provides a contextualized discussion of the similarities and differences in health of these four lowland populations, focusing on the broad themes of location (rural/urban) and status (high/low). The four study populations are compared statistically through prevalence rates of disease. A compilation of disease prevalence rates for twenty-three other medieval Scottish populations was created to provide further contextualized comparisons of health. The discussion of health from the perspectives of location is framed within the context of access to health care, population density/pathogen load, diet, and sub-adult mortality. Discussions of status focus on differences in housing and diet between the upper and lower status individuals living in medieval society. The role of pilgrimage is explored for the Isle of May with respect to health, illness, and the treatment of the sick. The analysis of four medieval populations in the lowland, east coast region of Scotland illustrate that although they were close geographically, each population had unique aspects to their skeletal health due to differences in their location and status.